Daniel Banks is the General Manager of KFAI Fresh Air 90.3 FM in Minneapolis, MN. Daniel grew up in Boston, MA and earned a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. There, he hosted several programs on local station WBOR 91.1 FM, where he eventually got involved in the administration and became the Station Manager. After leaving this role upon graduation for a U.S Fulbright Grant investigating arts scenes in Berlin, Daniel is excited to bring his passions to KFAI and Minneapolis, where he recently started as the General Manager in August.
How did you get to where you are today?
By the grace of the good people around me giving me a chance. There’s hard work and dedication involved, too – so, so much of those. But it always takes somebody else to put their trust in you and move you on. That’s not just people “ahead” of you in this rat race, but the friends, peers, and coworkers who put their faith in you to work for them and to lead them. In community radio, you’re in the wrong place if you’re trying to do things all on your own.
What drew you to community media?
I had a couple radio programs myself in college! I started because I am a total music head and wanted to share what I was enjoying, but in the process I realized the incredible power of the space I was in. Radio not only provides information and entertainment to listeners, but also provides hosts a space in which they can be 100% themselves and let their creative expressions fly. Studying art history, I was always hearing about how struggling artists had to fight for their studios, and yet here was a studio creating spaces for countless individuals all at once. Coming from the host’s perspective, it was awe-inspiring to think about this one space that we all shared collectively and defined together. I knew I had to get involved in its structure in order to allow others to access the same joy and opportunity that came with these spaces, especially on the community level, where both creativity and need are at their height. The fact that I could also serve my listening community in this way put me past the point of no return.
Community radio has a reputation for personalities. What are three unique things about you that people might never guess?
-I love board games and am an amateur game designer!
-I am completely indifferent toward sports. I enjoy them when they’re on but I’m not really one to root for a specific team.
-I hate mayonnaise in all its forms and can detect even the slightest hint in a recipe.
What has your experience been so far as a new manager in a city as challenged right now as Minneapolis?
KFAI’s community has been incredibly welcoming to me. Being an outsider, the struggle that the city has undergone/undertaken over the past year has not been my own. On the other hand, as a Black man from the United States, the cries that have echoed out here are something that immediately resonated with me, even in Berlin, where I was living at the time. The reason I felt so compelled by KFAI was that it epitomized what we in community radio hope to achieve. The connection of people, the sharing of information, the focus on locality—in a time when local events here have become national news, I want to help reassert the community’s individual identity as a group of people that are capable of having a discussion for themselves about themselves. The individuals at KFAI and in our community deserve the platform to speak their own truths, which neither national nor even state media are capable of capturing in the same depth or detail. My experience has been extremely positive as I have witnessed the most genuine displays of care for fellow human beings and been privileged enough to support the people fighting the hardest for their communities. If you live here, it’s clear.
Has anything about KFAI surprised you so far?
Like many community stations, and the broadcasting industry in general, KFAI has an impressive group of veteran hosts that have made the station’s airwaves their own for many decades. What surprised me is just how excited these dedicated individuals were to move forward and make sure that KFAI could continue to serve the next generation in just the same way as it has served them. Being a 20-something, I am myself one of the youngest active members of the station, and yet, their vote of confidence gives me great hope for KFAI’s next chapter.
What is one idea you have come up with that you are most proud of?
KFAI did not have an active webstore upon my arrival. Not only will it be up and running for our October 14 Pledge Drive, but we will be sharing our new platform with select local musicians, with whom we will be partnering to sell their albums on our site. Support your local music scene!
What material are you most like, and why?? (i.e. plastic, porcelain, dirt, silk, etc.)
Steel. I fully embrace the technological innovations we have made as humanity. We wouldn’t be able to connect through radio without them. Without steel, we wouldn’t be able to construct a building of more than a few stories.
What’s your favorite shortcut or hack?
Rely on your team and don’t micromanage. It seems obvious, but trusting your teammates is the best way to be efficient, effective, and be happy.
What advice would you give a person aspiring to become a station manager?
Find something at the station you are passionate about, take on leadership responsibilities around it, and allow yourself to become truly accountable for it. I never thought of myself as a leader growing up, but when it comes to the things I love, I just can’t help but go all out for them. Find your thing and feel out whether it inspires and pushes you in the way that you need to be motivated to lead a station.